PDINZ Interview - Reuben Bijl

An existing Member (DINZ) who has gained up to five years experience as a practising designer and attained a high level of professional competency in their design sector. A Professional Peer Review must be carried out by a selected panel to acknowledge this Professional Membership (PDINZ).

PDINZ Interviews are a follow up with recent successful Professional Peer Review candidates. 

Interview with Reuben Biji, PDINZ
Founder, Smudge

Why PDINZ now?
I’m not a classically-trained designer. Initially I came to my career as a technology specialist and I’ve been learning design along the way. Through this I've understood design to encompass a lot of what I do and what our team does, which is essentially solving problems. As Steve Jobs said: “Design is how it works”. So the short answer is that I’ve reached the point where I understand a definition of ‘design’ that I can proudly be a part of the community.

What do you hope to contribute as PDINZ?
Christchurch is my home town, and during my lifetime it’s quietly evolved into a place of immense creativity. There’s so much great work happening across the whole South Island in many different design disciplines. My goal as PDINZ is to help find and encourage the design community in this part of the world, and help bring that talent to a global stage.

What is your role at Smudge and what does a ‘standard’ day look like for you?
I’m the Managing Director at Smudge, and my main focus is on building and supporting our team with the work they’re doing day to day. So on any given day I find myself doing a wide range of tasks and activities. Strange as it might sound, since we have a lot of specialists on the team who are great at very specific things, I often end up doing the odd jobs that require a more generalist skillset. I learn something new almost every day.

Would you say you are a designer who specialises in business or a businessman who specialises in design?
I strongly believe in balancing technology, business and human needs in any piece of work. So I find it hard to exclusively favour one over the others. I often find myself being in one of two places: either doing detailed work focused in one of those areas and needing help getting out of the detail, or pushing into someone else’s specialist area and giving them input from one of the other angles. Achieving a consistent level of balance is a daily challenge.

Smudge has developed apps at a very interesting intersection between technology and social impact (i.e for NZ Police). What excites you about that particular type of work?
As a wider trend over the last 10-15 years, consumer technology has seen such an impressive amount of innovation - particularly around ease-of-use and capability - that many businesses are playing catch-up with the benchmark that has been set in people’s personal lives. With New Zealand Police, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the right skills at the right time to contribute to their mission of making New Zealand the world’s safest country. One of the most exciting things for me personally has been seeing some of the wider culture-change at NZ Police with the view that mobile technology can help frontline officers manage repetitive tasks and access the right information, at the right time more easily which gives them the freedom to be more human in those moments when their humanity is really needed.

What is an area of New Zealand's businesses where technology - specifically the sort of work you do - could have the biggest impact but has so far not taken advantage of it?Recently we’ve been exploring a few projects in the health sector, and we really believe that there are a lot of opportunities in this area that can have a big impact. I would love to see some headway in a national authentication layer where a clinicians identity could be easily validated and be able to access appropriate patient data, so that smaller projects could be run at a national scale being driven from clinicians' needs.

Any other news from your studio you’d like to share?
Yes, this year we’ve released a book and an audio series that covers some of our philosophy around problem-solving. We cover a broad range of topics and our hope is that some people might listen and agree with some of it, while others might dig into some areas further, or build on our ideas to make them better.

Where can we get them?
Our book Balance is available as a hardback from the Smudge Store (https://store.smudge.com/collections/frontpage/products/smudge-book ), a free download from Apple Books (https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1559468721) or an ePub file  https://smudge.com/documents/3/Balance_Book.epub
Listen to the audio series here https://smudge.com/podcast

DINZ Interviews

When the opportunity arises, DINZ interviews leading designers from here and overseas. These interviews seek to dig beneath the surface to address the common and uncommon challenges, problems and opportunities the design community faces.